How to name your literary magazine!

Toad Suck Review

If you are a person who is getting (or has gotten) an MFA in creative writing, there is a high likelihood that you are also a person who has at least toyed with the idea of starting your own literary magazine. Don’t even pretend like this isn’t true. I know you. Don’t lie.

And if you have considered starting your own literary magazine then you know there are a lot of big decisions to make before undertaking such a project. Like, you will probably need to figure out how to get a lot of start-up cash and a Web site and a printer you like and trust and other smart friends who will help you edit it and many other things that you haven’t even thought of because logistics are boring and therefore not a part of anyone’s literary magazine daydreams. In the land of what-if-I-started-my-own-magazine, there is really only one concern that reigns supreme.

What am I going to name it?

I’ve spent quite a lot of time poking around Duotrope recently and I’ve noticed most lit mag names can be slotted into a few main categories. And so, for literary magazine success, you should probably just follow this formula. Categories (as well as original name suggestions) below. Please help yourself to whatever you like. You’re welcome.

-A single, made-up word

e.g. Unfathomication

-A real word that no one knows the meaning of

e.g. Antediluvian

– A word most people do know the meaning of, but which somehow seems artsy out of context

e.g. Vas deferens

Makeout Creek: Both a magazine & an excellent vacation destination!

-The name of the place where the magazine is produced followed by the word “quarterly” or “review”

e.g. Browne’s Addition Review or Windowless Basement Apartment Quarterly

-An important landmark near where your magazine is produced

e.g. Offshore Oil Rig

-A made-up place

e.g. Bonertown, U.S.A.

-A play on some other, more famous work of literature

e.g. Holden Caufield’s Little Bother’s Baseball Mitt

While I was looking for Makeout Creek, I also found The Shit Creek Review. True story.

-A somewhat obscure term from the printing/publishing industry

e.g. Erratum

-A word used so widely in the world of writing that any reference to your journal will actually be inevitably confusing

e.g. Sentences

-A mode of transportation preceded by an adjective not usually associated with said mode of tranist

e.g. Slippery Blimp

-Some random animal

e.g. Wallaroo

-Some random animal plus another thing that is not an animal

e.g. Cobra Pants

That’s all I got. What else?



  • Brett says:

    Too funny. And quite true.

  • Jason Sommer jason says:

    for the record, i had to look up “vas deferens,” but already knew “antediluvian” (which is, in fact, a word i try to slip into casual conversation as often as possible.

    and i believe the greatest literary magazine that has yet to exist falls squarely within that last category: shark sandwich.

    excellent post, friend.

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    What about the Dictator/Children’s furniture rubric?

    And here I’m thinking of Hitler’s Playpen, Stalin’s High Chair, Napoleon’s Crib, etc.

  • Aaron says:

    Where can I sign up for a subscription to Windowless Basement Apartment Quarterly?

    Nicely done, as usual.

  • Danielle says:

    Cobra Pants! Haha. I admit I have researched litmags just because the name caught my curiosity/bewilderment.

    Semi-related … Makeout Creek = Richmond’s finest! A friendquaintance of mine from VCU founded it. You should submit there.

    • Leyna Krow says:

      I’ve thought about submitting to Makeout Creek in the past just because of the name (and also the cover art, which I love). But for some reason, didn’t. Now I’ve got no excuse though, clearly.

  • Rachel Hartley-Smith says:

    Nice deductions. I started my own lit mag for a bit – 2 issues, to be precise. It was HARD to pull together (because I was very poor with very high expectations), but damn! those two issues were SUPER HOT. I had a fabulous name for my little lit mag too. It was linkable to the literary world (sorta) and had potential connections to new media technology (if you thought about it hard enough) and . . . there was a route of interpretation that could lead one to simple human biology and so, definitely, philosophy and universal truths and . . . albeit vaguely, Love. BUT then the dotcom was already taken by one of those “Save your DNA for future generations” banks. I was forced to change the name to something else – and I had originally aimed for something somewhat similar. What I ended up with, however, was something outright weird. When people would come to ask me how I came up with the strange name to my little lit mag, I planned to invent a different story every time (anything to sound better than “the dotcom I had originally wanted was already taken”). I say the weirder the better, for practical reasons.

  • Monet says:

    I submit Bubble Guts for the approval of the Midnight Council

  • Tim Greenup says:

    The understated quality of “Sentences” totally has me LOLing over here. Well played, Krow.

    And I guess there is a journal called “Sentence.” I’m submitting to them immediately.

  • Ann says:

    Oh good… I looked up vas deferens while at work. Thanks, Leyna! :)

  • Cathie Smathie says:

    Leyna Krow,
    I <3 you.

  • I’m dying. I’m not sure I can top ‘Sentences’ or ‘Vas deferens’ but there’s also the great tradition of four-letter, monosyllabic, all-caps titles (e.g., FRIM, TINE) or resurrecting obscure names from Greek mythology (e.g., Scylla & Caribdis).

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